E-books, or electronic books, may be digitised versions of what were originally hard copy print books, or they may have been designed as digital books from the start. The former typically offer a small range of additional features compared to print books, including:
- the ability to carry large libraries of books on a single device
- the ability to enlarge images
- the ability to search text
- the ability to look up words or expressions in a dictionary or glossary
- the ability to highlight and annotate text
- the ability to see which sections of text previous readers have highlighted
- the ability to compile and export highlights and annotations
The latter may offer a much wider range of additional features, including all of the above, but extending to include:
- interactivity with animations and simulations within the book
- interactivity with other readers through margin notes and conversations
In the former case, e-books are more web 1.0 in nature, though they add some web 2.0 features. In the latter case, where there is an increasingly blurred line between e-books and book-like apps, e-books are more web 2.0 in nature; in fact, they may even come to function less as information delivery vehicles and more as discussion hubs. In both cases, because they are typically accessed on mobile devices, e-books fit with contemporary mobile learning trends. E-books may be read on dedicated e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, or they may be read on a range of other mobile and computing devices (see the image at the top of this page). In most cases, e-books can be synched across multiple devices, giving readers easy access to their current reading pages, or their collections of highlights and annotations, on all of their personal devices.
In recent years, there has been much discussion of the value of e-books and e-textbooks in education. While e-book sales globally have not been as robust as expected, suggesting that many people prefer to continue using print books, they have made some inroads into education. Indeed, it has been suggested that many people might prefer to use e-books for educational and professional purposes, while turning to print books when reading for pleasure. This means that, in educational and professional contexts, users can capitalise on the lists of e-book advantages at the top of this page.
For good examples of educational e-books marketed as apps, see the TouchPress Media publications such as The Elements (chemistry), The Pyramids (history), Solar System (science), and The Waste Land (English literature), or the Inkling interactive textbooks which cover a range of tertiary subjects.
Going a step further, Apple’s iBooks Author makes it easy for anyone to create their own e-textbooks for iPads or Mac computers, while Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Textbook Creator make it possible to create e-textbooks for Kindle devices (or for use through the Kindle app). It is also possible for teachers and students to produce e-books of varying levels of complexity using a range of digital storytelling, video and other multimedia creation services, as well as social sharing services.
E-textbooks which are customisable, and often collaboratively authored by educators around the world, can be found on the CK-12 and FlatWorld websites. It is also worth checking out JISC’s Living Books About Life project, which focuses on edited books of open source content.
More information about e-books is available on the Publications on Mobile Learning page.
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